Some days, when I'm reading about the latest burglary around the corner, I have a wobble about bringing up my little boys in the big city. We then usually spend a weekend exploring something new in Manchester and my fears are mostly allayed, because actually this amazing city we live in offers our children a multitude of opportunities and experiences that far outweigh any negatives of city life.
Manchester Children's Book Festival
Our latest discovery was the Manchester Children's Book Festival. After a short 10 minute train ride into town we wandered into the MMU All Saints campus and were welcomed by an enthusiastic team who were keen to help us get the most out of our day.
We had to avert our eyes as we wandered through the GRUB market zone (it was too early for treats!), but the Manchester doughnut stall in particular looked mouth watering. There was also a classy offering of wood fired pizza, Malay street food, Polish BBQ, organic coffee and artisan ice cream. We did of course come back later - those Crunchy Nut Cornflake Doughnuts were not to be missed.
Inside the main hub there was an array of stalls each offering something unique for the kids, with the stallholders ranging from authors to local community groups.
My eldest crafted a Manchester
Bee which we proudly carried around for the rest of the day, whilst the little one clutched a wooden spoon handed to him by an organic food cooperative.
Upstairs in a small, unassuming seminar room, we wandered in and watched a short but captivating musical storytelling of the 'Lighthouse Keeper' by three actors from the Royal Exchange Theatre.
There was a rolling programme of events to keep you entertained in just this one little room for the whole day. All for free!
After lunch we had pre booked onto a session (also free) with the hilarious illustrator and author Ross Collins. He entertained us for an hour with readings and drawings from his new book ‘There's a Bear on my Chair’. The workshop was interactive and humorous for the children and fascinating for the adults. What a nice guy.
Workshop with author Ross Collins
After a brief look at another beautifully curated room consisting of artefacts from Manchester museum, henna to experiment with, face painting and a planetarium that we didn't manage to squeeze into (must arrive earlier next year!), it was time to go home but not quite the end of the festival for us.
The following day I took my eldest (age 5) to Z-Arts - Hulme’s very own arts hub - to watch a truly wonderful one man version of Puss in Boots. Narrated and acted by CBeebies’ Patrick Lynch using a dramatic sloping stage, we were both mesmerised by his energy and clever story telling right through to the end.
The website suggested that it was suitable for ages 4 and up, but I'm pretty sure my little one (nearly 3) would have loved it too. We will definitely be returning to Z-Arts over the summer to take advantage of their fun packed holiday schedule.
Puss in Boots performance and Z-Arts
So a big thank you to Manchester Children's Book Festival and everyone involved in the organisation for restoring my faith in the city and all it has to offer -nobody can rob us of that. See you next year!
The Manchester Children’s Book Festival is a year-round programme of events and activities for children, young adults and adults. Check out their website to see what's coming up and where.
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